One of the greatest benefits of living with my roommate from Louisiana—aside from getting to see his pretty face every morning—has been getting to learn all about Louisianan, or cajun, cuisine. Though I may not partake of its trademark crawfish or andouille sausage, its signatures spices, vegetables, and cooking techniques still offer a lot for a vegan cook to chew on and bite into. And I’m here today to share one of the many southern joys I’ve been introduced to in the last year—a simple little soup known simply as roux:
Now if you know anything about cajun cooking—or French cooking, for that matter—you probably know that a roux is a soup base made by browning flour in butter. Just about every cajun dish you’ve probably heard of, from gumbo to jambalaya to étouffée, starts with a roux. But in addition to using a roux as a base for other soups, you can also turn it into a roux soup—a thick, hearty, stew bursting with the taste of roux.
It may not sound or look like much, but this simple dish is immensely flavourful and delicious—and all that flavour really just comes from the roux! No fancy spices or anything are needed. In addition, this soup is very flexible with its ingredients, and can be made year-round, no matter what’s in season. There’re really no rules for what veg is right for a roux, but I’ve found that starchy, white vegetables work best: potatoes for sure, and cauliflower too. Just stay away from things like tomatoes that would excessively bleed into the soup.
More than anything, roux just requires patience. Properly browning a roux will take you between 30 and 45 minutes or more, depending on the size of the roux, and you really can’t stop stirring it, lest the flour burn and your whole soup be ruined. But if you grab a few beers and queue up a few podcasts beforehand (might I recommend the ever-brilliant Bullseye?), you’ll be fine. And so, without further ado, my very own roux recipe:
(makes 2 litres of roux, or 4 hearty servings; however, the recipe is easily scalable to your needs)
- 1/2 cup flour (gluten-free flour also works! use an all-purpose mix)
- 1/2 cup vegan butter
- 1 onion, diced finely
- 1/4 cup mushrooms, minced finely
- 1 carrot, diced finely and/or 1 bell pepper, diced finely and/or
- 4 cups vegetables of your choosing; I’d recommend:
- 2 cups potatoes, in small cubes
- 1 cup cauliflower, in small florets
- 1 cup cabbage
- optional: 1/2 cup of flavoured tofu bites (I use Ying Ying Soy Food‘s miso variety)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Prep all your vegetables ahead of time: Once you start the roux, you’re not going to have any free hands to chop vegetables until pretty much everything’s in there, so make sure to chop all your vegetables chopped appropriately at the very start.
- Make your roux: Melt 1/2 cup of vegan pot in a big pot, and then add 1/2 cup of flour. Immediately start stirring flour into butter, adjust the heat such that the mixture is lightly bubbling, and then stir continuously for about 30 minutes (or more if you’re making a bigger roux). Don’t stop stirring for more than 10 seconds or the roux will burn! It’s tough to say when exactly the roux is ready, but what you’re waiting for is a noticeable darkening in colour and a nutty fragrance. If it helps, here’s my roux before, right when I started cooking it…
- Brown some onions and mushrooms and whatever else: Once your roux is ready, add in your finely chopped onions, mushrooms, carrots and/or peppers. Stir all these into the roux, getting everything coated, and then let cook for 5 to 10 minutes until browned, stirring occasionally.
- Add your veg: Throw in your main soup vegetables (in this case, potatoes and cauliflower) and enough water to cover them. Stir in the water, breaking up the roux, bring the soup to a boil, and then simmer until vegetables are cooked. Correct for consistency throughout this process, adding more water if things are looking too thick, letting simmer if things are looking too thin.
- Add final touches: Add in any vegetables that only need to be lightly cooked, like cabbage, and the tofu, if using. Season generously with salt and pepper to taste and serve!
Until we eat again,